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Friday, February 10, 2006

Who should be in the front six at Highbury tomorrow?

Attacking away-day AFC 4-4-2 made a long-awaited return at St Andrews last week, and combined with a total resolve among the selected players produced a much-needed win.

After one goal in nine games for the AFC 4-5-1, we got two goals in one game playing the system that suits each one of Arsenal's players best: particularly the double centurion, Thierry Henry.

The combination of a flying Reyes on the left to give the chief support to Henry and Adebayor, along with the inclusion of Fabregas on the right to come inside and support Diaby and Gilberto, gave the Arsenal front-six perfect balance. In fact, aside from the inclusion of Adebayor (I thought Dennis should start), this was the selection I wanted to play at Birmingham, exactly for the reason that it gave us an excellently balanced front-six necessary for away-matches.

Now, Arsenal are back at home tomorrow, and will face the bogeymen from Bolton. I must give credit to Bolton for their recent record against us. I sense they have the psychological upper-hand over Arsenal, and relish roughing us up. Their style of play is the antithesis of ours- and they love to prove that their style is the more effective.

It would be great for AFC to give Bolton a footballing lesson! And with our defence again likely to feature the young Swiss guard with Flamini and Larsson as supporting FB's, the onus is again on the front six to win their battles.

Diaby is a must in the centre of the pitch alongside Gilberto. This is AFC's best CM combo at present: giving us good size, presence and tackling ability in the centre of the park.

Reyes is a must on the left wing. He is an ever-present threat, gets into the box, and has the pace to put the opposition on the back foot.

Henry is Henry… so that leaves the right midfield and second striker positions up for grabs.

Apparently VP is unavailable so its between Dennis and Adebayor. The Bolton CB's are powerful, so it may be best playing a big man like Adebayor for nuisance-value effect, allowing Thierry, Reyes etc to take advantage of the defenders being preoccupied by the Togolese international. On the other hand, I'm a big believer in the Reyes/Bergkamp/Henry partnership, with Dennis' guile maximising the attacking threat of his attacking partners.

It's a tough call, and I see big benefits in either option. My instinct right now is to start with the fresh Adebayor option.

On the right I see the choice being between Ljungberg and Fabregas. Again it's a tough call. Young Francesc was part of a winning team last week, has had the much-needed refreshment of a three match suspension, and I like the fact that he can come inside to support Diaby and Gilberto.

That said, I prefer at home to have someone of more attacking impetus on the right, so would start with Freddie. He has seriously struggled for form and fitness this season, and has accumulated a lot of doubters. Yet there were signs of improvement against West Ham, and I reckon that he is hugely determined to resurrect the old Freddie of past seasons. He should also be the better option to keep the raiding Gardner occupied in his own half.

So my team to go out all guns against Bolton tomorrow is:



Anonymous RedVIII said...

I agree with all apart from i would put Cesc on the right instead of Freddi as i feel this would provide Flammini with better support.

so my team would be:

Almunia, Song, Ljunberg, Bergkamp and Walcott

2/10/2006 3:03 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fred's been terrible this year, he needs to sit down for a while otherwise he will think his place is concrete.

I'd play Fabregas, or Hleb or Walcott instead of him.

2/10/2006 3:27 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Great article as always, T, I would go for Ljungberg for experience and potentially consider Fabregas to replace him if needed. Otherwise your choice of line-up is practically what I would field.

Anon (3.27PM) mentioned Hleb on the right as another option. I understand the Belarussian prefers CM but can fill the RM or LM position with some ease when necessary, and his eye for the pass and pace is an asset. So Hleb or Ljungberg? I would look for Ljungberg. Fabregas could be considered for coming on into CM but Gilberto and Diaby on home soil may keep matters quiet there.

Bolton may be quite physical, and they have the confidence of playing their game at Highbury, but with the strength of Diaby adding to Gilberto's to potentially make that of PV, and Adebayor adding his height and strength to accompany Henry's pace, vision and skill, I think fortune favours the home side.


2/10/2006 3:49 pm

Anonymous Sam said...

Cesc started the move for the first goal and set up the second last week.

He must start.

This is the core of the team that is going to be playing 4 away games after this one. We should start bedding a team for that.

Oh, and Freddie has done nothing recently to suggest he should play.

2/10/2006 4:00 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanx for your comments so far!

Re Freddie v Francesc, this is something that made me pause for some deliberation when deciding on my front six, and its a really tight call.

I originally selected Francesc, and if this was an away match I would DEFINITELY start him. I would also like to see him start at Anfield and the Bernabeu on the right.

However, Freddie provides slightly more width and more surges into the box... and it is this potential dynamism that I would like to exploit to AFC's advantage in the first half tomorrow.

Sam and Anon, I agree that its a gamble becuase Freddie has been under the weather this season. However, I thought there were better signs in his performance against West Ham, and my instinct is that he's got it within him to do the business.

Redviii, I agree that Cesc is a better option if your priority is to protect Flamini. And he does have excellent passing ability to support the strikers and midfield.

But as its at home and I want an early all-out charge against Bolton, my starting choice is for a surging Freddie instead of a steady Francesc.

Plus, he is due a goal!

P.S Thanx Redsman for your optimism in AFC.

2/10/2006 4:32 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Song will start at LB ahead of Larsson, having played most of his games there at his previous club.

2/10/2006 5:27 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gilberto's been crap for the last while.





2/10/2006 6:48 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think playing without Bergkamp, Pires, Fabregas and Hleb would seriously undermine our final ball. We know about Pires and Bergkamp's final passes as well as Cesc's, but Hleb is an excellent passer too. I know he hasnt convinced everyone, but if we can get him to play like he did at the start of the season, (eg, in the Amsterdam tournament he made goals for freddie and Lupoli, and i know it was only a friendly but he showed what he could do) then he could be a great asset over the coming months and seasons. I just think that Reyes is a bit hit and miss, he can be electrifying but also clueless. He has got 13 assists this season, and some of his passing has been sublime but pace and dribbling are more his strong points

2/11/2006 9:06 am


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